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Florida legislature considering changes to alimony system

Every Miami resident experiences a great deal of change in his or her personal life over the years. While change is a normal part of life, it is also an ordinary occurrence in the legal system. On occasion, these two can converge, as personal changes are impacted by the changes in the law.

A good example of this change is currently playing out in Florida's alimony system. Last week, this blog discussed how Florida law allows courts to enter an award of permanent alimony in certain cases. In cases involving long-term marriages, for instance, the judge may award permanent alimony if warranted under the circumstances.

The ability of judges to award permanent alimony has been a contentious issue in the state for quite some time. Some legislators are now attempting to rewrite Florida's alimony laws to eliminate permanent alimony, as well as bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative and durational alimony. The proposed law, which is based on a similar bill that failed to pass last session, would also redefine what constitutes a long-term marriage by lengthening the term in the current law to fall under that category.

In doing away with permanent alimony, the proposed law would instead use certain formulas that would calculate the payment amount due in particular cases. The formula would include an analysis of the length of the marriage and the combined earnings of the couple. The new law would also set a term for the spousal support payments.

It remains to be seen whether the bill will be able to pass, and it has been criticized by opponents who believe the current law meets the needs of individuals in certain cases. There is also some question as to whether the new law would be made retroactive to apply to awards of alimony already in effect. Accordingly, there is a lot of uncertainty as to how Florida's alimony laws will look after the session. The important issue is for individuals to be aware of their rights, which involves an understanding of how changes in the law can impact their case.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Acrimony remains over alimony reform," Dara Kim, Nov. 20, 2015

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